Pubdate: Wed, 29 Sep 2004
Source: Dominion Post, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2004 The Dominion Post
Author: Martin Kay
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The concept of legal and illegal drugs would disappear under a new
Greens policy that would make it easier to decriminalise cannabis.

The policy, which will be announced tomorrow, would also bring
alcohol, tobacco, drugs, medicines and food supplements under one law,
with medical experts given a much greater say in how they are classified.

The idea of illegal substances under the current Misuse of Drugs Act
would be replaced with restrictions.

Drugs such as P would be highly restricted, and others, such as
tobacco and alcohol, restricted on the basis of age.

Green drug policy spokesman Nandor Tanczos said the classifications
would be decided by the expert advisory committee on drugs, which
could make recommendations directly to Parliament. At present the
committee makes its recommendations to the health minister, who
decides what action to take.

Mr Tanczos said allowing the committee to bring drug classifications
directly to Parliament would take much of the political sting out of
arguments such as cannabis decriminalisation.

Though MPs would still decide, the vote would be based on scientific
recommendations that considered social, health and criminal justice

He said the new policy was not a rebranding of the Greens campaign to
decriminalise cannabis, though he agreed it would make it easier to
change the legal status of the drug.

"What we are saying is that the expert advisory committee on drugs
should make the recommendation about where drugs should be, based on
the evidence available to them," he said.

"It shouldn't be a political decision ... it should be based on the

"At the moment the question is should we take cannabis out of the
Misuse of Drugs Act and say it's now legal. The question for the
experts would be what is the most effective way to control it given
the harms associated with it and given that the aim is to reduce use
and to reduce harm from use.

"It's an entirely different question, because it's not saying should
we change the law and take it out of the law, it's saying what is the
best way to control it."

He said the policy would also allow authorities to deal more
effectively with drugs such as benzylpiperazine, or BZP, an
unregulated legal high that has the potential to cause harm for some

An expert committee report in March found the drug could not be placed
under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and that there was a need for a new
schedule to control such drugs while not prohibiting them completely.

Mr Tanczos said the Greens policy meant legal highs would be under the
same umbrella as narcotics, alcohol, tobacco and medicines, and the
committee could easily restrict them on the basis of age. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake